In an age where we are constantly connected (research from RescueTime, one of several apps for iOS and Android created to monitor phone use, shows that people spend an average of three hours and 15 minutes on their phones every day equating to an eye-boggling 45 days a year), ironically, we are more disconnected than ever.
We all know that time spent in and around nature is good for us, it’s purported to help reduce stress and produces a better sense of wellbeing and connection with the world around us. But according to several scholars, both at home and abroad, exposure to nature may not only help our overall connection with the real world, but also help reduce crime rates.
So could adding green space and trees to our towns and cities actually help reduce crime? And if so, what can we do about it? Some academics believe that parks and other deliberately built green spaces can help prevent violence in our communities. In a study of public housing developments in Chicago, University of Illinois researchers found 52% fewer crimes reported near buildings surrounded by trees and other vegetation. Forest Research, the UK’s principal organisation for forestry and tree related research says: “The visual appearance of green space can impact on the surrounding area, and neglected open spaces have been found to cause a negative impact by contributing to the onset of crime and vandalism. However, the management of urban greenspace to ensure it is of a high standard can help to reduce the prevalence of crime and vandalism and improve the aesthetic quality of an area.”
Scholars of both urban and rural greenspace do contend that how the space is maintained is critical; the Forest Research study says: “Well-used and well-managed woodlands near to where people live can provide inclusive access and tend to attract less anti-social behaviour than unmanaged woodlands.”
According to UK Crime Stats, at home in Hull, there were 443 reported violent crimes and 302 reported incidents involving anti-social behaviour in August 2019 alone.
At PATT, we believe that improving access to greenspace is not only good for the environment and the knock-on effect of decarbonisation, but will also improve crime rates. Our One Hull of a Forest project aims to plant trees involving schools/ businesses and the general public to help increase the city’s woodland cover. The long-term aim is to work with the 79 primary schools in the region to raise awareness of environmental issues as well as assist in mapping some of the city’s biological assets. While we believe it’s important to involve the future stewards of the environment at an early stage, there’s plenty that you can do as an individual or as an organisation. The UK’s forest cover is among the lowest of any country in Europe, you can help us change that today by committing with us to plant a tree today or getting in touch to find out how we can work together: firstname.lastname@example.org